Ergonomic concerns?

I doubt this has ever been discussed here before. A few years ago I went to a lecture by Claire Van Vliet (our Great Mother) and she mentioned the physical problems she inherited from printing on a Vandercook for some five decades. These were spinal in nature, as I recall. Never thought much about it before but I just found out, after some thirty-six years at the wheel, that my rotating cuff (right side) is shot. Not all that pleasant a pain. I’m assuming the worst. Vandercook love.


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Paul Moxon, Moderator
11 years ago

Glad to hear you’re on the mend. Operator maintenance is job one.

The Arm
12 years ago

Have you been working with your power Universal III much? I personally really like running on ‘cycle’ with the tapes.


12 years ago

As a very young and newcomer to the Vandercook world, I really appreciate this discussion, it should help me and other people take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries in the long run.
Thank you.

John Henry
12 years ago

it was a great relief to our operators when we swapped out our two 219 presses (hand-cranked) for the Universal III models with Motor drive. They smiled more often after that.

When I was teaching typography at Oklahoma State University, I had a student in a motorized wheelchair. She was able to grab onto the handle with her left hand and push her joystick (on her chair) with the right and was able to do a pretty good job of runnign the SP20 press we had in the lab. It took some planning on her part, but she did admirably well.

Nathan Rose
12 years ago

I notice aches and pains after any kind of long run on my Vandercook. i have a #4, which is great but seems just a touch too short for me (i am 6’2″), so there is a small and subtle bend that my lower back makes when the crank arm is at its lowest point in rotation.
The bend is slight, but after a few hours of cranking, i feel it in the back for sure.
Just lifting my press a couple of inches would probably do the trick, but i would need to sort out the gripper pedal issue.
In the long term, i plan to do my big press runs on a Heidelberg, if not to save time, then to save my joints.
repetitive stress syndrome is something i am familiar with from my days working the register at a grocery store in during college. The life-long cashiers were a mess of back and wrist problems.
I agree with Paul at finding a press and stance that fits, but its also important to take a break and stretch and move in different ways every hour or two, just to mix it up for the body.

Paul Moxon, Moderator
12 years ago

So sorry to hear this, Gerald. Some time ago I had sciatica, which I attribute to our beloved machine. Now in my shop, I wear running shoes and stand on an anti-fatigue mat.

I address safety and ergonomics in my maintenance and printing workshops. After an overview of press anatomy. I talk about proper attire and proper stance. It’s my contention that when ready to move the carriage, the operator should not stand parallel to the press, but instead pivot their body about 45 degrees toward the hand crank. This way they are using their entire body to move the carriage and not just their shoulder. I insist that they walk with the carriage to the end of the bed and not stretch or extend their arm. I then say that the should remove the sheet and reverse the procedure: remove the sheet with their left hand and walk backward to the feed board while turning the hand crank with their right hand. Even for the smallest adult there is no need to use two hands crank the carriage, nor dos-a-dos and walk forward to the feed board.

Where there are multiple models, I try to match students with presses by height. I assign shorter students an SP and taller ones a Universal or 219.

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